A Hong Kong university student who fell from height during a protest earlier this week died in the hospital Friday, a tragedy that may inflame further unrest in the city.
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology undergraduate, Chow Tsz-lok, 22, died around 8 a.m. of cardiac arrest, the Hospital Authority confirmed. Chow had been hospitalized with a severe brain injury since early Monday morning after he fell from a parking garage in the residential Tseung Kwan O neighborhood where police were attempting to disperse protesters.
Police told reporters Tuesday that Chow was found unconscious after falling 13 feet from the third to the second story of the car park early Monday morning between 12:45 and 1 a.m. A police spokesperson confirmed that tear gas had been fired near the car park where protesters and officers clashed. The exact reasons for Chow’s fall, and whether the tear gas played any role, remain unclear, however.
Both protesters and police have been hurt in the unrest that has roiled Hong Kong since June, but Chow is believed to be the first person to die as a result of injuries sustained during the demonstrations. His death is expected to spark fresh protests and escalate public outcry against the police force, which is already accused of using excessive force in its bid to quell the city’s worst political crisis in decades. One of the key protest demands is an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality.
Protesters have claimed that police blocked an ambulance from reaching Chow, and in doing so delayed the emergency medical response. Police have denied interfering.
On Thursday, Chow’s classmates at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), decried the police as they disrupted a graduation ceremony and chanted protest slogans.
A moment of silence for Chow was held during the university’s second day of commencement ceremonies Friday and a flashmob broke out over lunchtime in the city’s center.
The Provisional President of the university’s student union, Lai Wai-chun, said he hopes the school’s authorities can investigate the reasons for Chow’s fall and for the alleged delay in emergency medical personnel reaching him. “I think the whole of Hong Kong is very disappointed in the police, and does not have any expectation towards them,” Lai says.
Lai added that the university would hold a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m., in addition to an evening memorial at the car park where Chow fell.
The Hong Kong government said in a statement it expressed “great sorrow and regret” over the student’s death, and extended sympathies to his family. A “comprehensive investigation to find out what happened is being conducted,” it added.
News of Chow’s death comes as Hong Kong enters its sixth consecutive month of protests, which have increasingly been marked by anger towards police. Last month, two teenage protesters were shot with live rounds by officers. Both survived.